The Manner of the Road

This road video work was shot in Canberra, Australia. This production is intended to be connecting work for previously published photographic books showing the connection between the road, the car and urban intra environments. The photobooks include;

          ·       Suburb Making

         ·      The Space In-Between

        ·        Private Roadside Remembrance

        ·        Car Accommodation

        ·        Urban Commercial

        ·        Urban Formal

        ·        Urban Central

This two view video work shows the driver and the divided urban road from the backseat of a car. Both views also show the personal interior space of the vehicle and the manner in which the driver interacts with other motor vehicles on the road. Each interior car space hold individual(s) who can only communicate in that personnel space. The driver has an interior disconnected screen view of this car’s interaction with other motor vehicles on the road and the passing blurred landscape. The car becomes part of continuous synchronous group of disconnected personal interior spaces that have little connection to the natural environment.

Sheller and Urry (2000) define automobility a “complex amalgam of interlocking machines, social practices and ways of dwelling, not in a stationary home, but in a mobile, semi-privatized and hugely dangerous capsule.”[1] Urry further states that a car is a source of freedom along a complex road system allowing a flexible work and social life 24 hours a day.[2] I would not disagree with this perspective but feel automobility is part of a larger networked environment and that does not account as Witcher states the road has ideological aspects and is part of the subjection of nature and society. “It denies the past, whilst physically inscribing a new authority upon the landscape as part of a new present.” [3]

A road is defined as a travelled way on which people, animals or wheeled vehicles move.   Roads in various forms have existed throughout history, however it is in modern times with the advent of the motor vehicle roads have changed in nature dramatically. Modern roads can now be classified by type or function. The most basic is the undivided two way road while divided roads and expressways can be larger and are for greater flows of traffic. [4]

Roads cover large distances in the environment connecting both intra and other external urban environments. The road and the intra-urban environments imaged are not neutral spaces with no meaning, I would argue they are networked social group spaces as Lefebvre  argues.[5] These spaces can be understood from a phenomenological approach as Tilly states as spaces derived from personal activity and experience.[6] Michel de Certeau suggested each urban space has a particular meaning that belongs to that locality. The uniqueness of that space can be understood through that meaning which occurs through the sharing between individuals of its significance that establishes collective awareness and identity.[7] This view also allows space to be also involved with places and paths, and implicated in social constructs.[8] It therefore be said paths or roads are built through spaces produced by people. For Tilley these human environmental spaces are a set of relational places linked by paths, movements and narratives.[9] As Lin states a path as the outcome of spatial practice allows the passage of people, ideas and memories[10] which Herzogenrath argues acts as a store of cultural knowledge.[11]

Witcher argues the use of a particular road does not need to represent acceptance of this imposed environment, but rather participation. Witcher states “a farmer using a road because it represents a quicker route to a local market participates in the road's ideology - and hence permits the authorities power - regardless of political, social or ethnic affiliations.” [12] So this filmed work showing driving on divided road can be rationalised as a simple functional act and not an endorsement of the car and the motorway. However the greater and longer the use of these established roads, the more the mnemonic memory meaning they have to individuals using them. In time moving along these roads now become part of an act of remembrance of the near past with the deep past forgotten.[13]

I would argue that urban constructions as seen in my photographic books with the associated roads are examples of a deliberately formed imposed environment in which memories associated with the old environment are overlain and possibly forgotten.[14]


[1] Mimi Sheller, and John Urry. "The city and the car." International journal of urban and regional research 24, no. 4 (2000): 738.

[2] John Urry,. "Inhabiting the car." The Sociological Review 54, no. 1_suppl (2006): p.19

[3] Robert Witcher. "Roman roads: phenomenological perspectives on roads in the landscape." Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal 1997 (1998), p.64

[4] Encyclopaedia Britannica, Road, (accessed 24th Jan 2023)

[5] Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space. (trans. O. Nicholson-Smith). Oxford and

Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1991.p.73-77

[6] Christopher Y Tilley. A phenomenology of landscape: places, paths, and monuments. Vol. 10. Oxford: Berg, 1994.p.10 to 14

[7] Michel De Certeau,. The Practice of Everyday Life. 1984. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: U of California P, p.115-136, 1984.

[8] Tilley et al, p.31

[9] Tilley et al, p.34

[10] Wen-ling Lin,. "From paths to traditional territory: Wayfinding and the materialisation of an ancestral homeland." Paths and Journeys (2021): 29.p.34

[11] Bernd,Herzogenrath, ed. Media matter: the materiality of media, matter as medium. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2015,1

[12] Robert Witcher. "Roman roads: phenomenological perspectives on roads in the landscape." Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal 1997 (1998), p.64

[13] Witcher. et al, p.65

[14] Witcher, et al, p.63